Letters from the Issue of June 9 , 2005

Friends of Fidel, Miami Beach beatings, handgun chic

Kulchur and Castro: Simpatico

An obvious conclusion drawn from this slander against Luis Posada Carriles: I did not like the general tone of Brett Sokol's column about Luis Posada Carriles ("Terror Alert, Miami Style," June 2). He wrote, "Posada, who is believed to be the mastermind of the 1976 midair bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Imprisoned in Venezuela for that crime, he escaped in 1985." But he failed to mention that Posada was acquitted twice in Venezuelan courts, but even after the acquittals, he was unjustly kept in jail for eight years owing to bureaucratic red tape. Therefore I do not blame him for escaping.

Mr. Sokol also wrote, "Was one man's terrorist -- at least in the eyes of that crucial Cuban-exile voting bloc -- another man's freedom fighter?" That is indeed a matter of opinion. Some people think Richard Nixon was a good president, others don't. I personally think Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton shamed the presidency of this nation. I also think Osama bin Laden is a sadistic terrorist, but many of his fellow countrymen and comrades in arms think he is a great leader on a holy crusade (jihad) against the infidels (the U.S. and all of its citizens anywhere). According to my reading of the column, Mr. Sokol probably thinks Fidel Castro is "misunderstood" or in the (infamous) "worse-case scenario," just misguided.

He seemed concerned about the well-being of the New York Times's Miami bureau chief Abby Goodnough: "It wasn't a safety issue," she responded to a question from Mr. Sokol. "I wasn't worried about being kidnapped." He commented on the more positive attitude of the Chicago Tribune's Gary Marx, "[who] received the same offer from Alvarez but took a different tack," adding, "For Marx the experience was more surreal than menacing." Mr. Sokol seemed intent on portraying Cuban exiles as dangerous, but Goodnough's and Marx's attitudes did not help him.

He quoted ABC's Jeffrey Kofman as saying, "Yes, people were watching to see if this was going to be another Elian, but this is a different community now." And yes, it is a different community, which trusts this administration while it did not trust Clinton, Reno, et al. in 2000.

If Mr. Sokol had family in that huge concentration camp which is Cuba, he would think differently.

Armando Gutiérrez

Miami

Editor's note: Owing to a reporting error in Brett Sokol's "Terror Alert, Miami Style," the name of the New York Times's Amy Goodnough was misspelled. New Times regrets the error.

Memorial Day Tackiness

Why flee the Beach? I fully agree with The Bitch's column "Cracker, Please" (June 2). All of these Memorial Day "escape the Beach" parties are tacky. I myself have enjoyed the Memorial Day shenanigans in the past, but this year, being too lazy to go anywhere, I stayed at home on West Avenue and had a peaceful weekend.

If you're not into crowds, avoiding Washington Avenue for one weekend is not a big deal.

Emily Eisenhauer

Miami Beach

Intimidate: Hidden Truth

Beatings like Titus Berry's are not uncommon: I can't thank Francisco Alvarado enough for writing about Titus Berry's struggles with the racist Miami Beach Police Department in his story "To Serve and Protect and Intimidate" (May 26). Mr. Berry is a personal friend I got to know during the time he had his life back in order. He was continuing to make progress.

I highlighted the article in my blog www.chicotown.com. Another friend, Caliba, who is a rapper, is also going through a similar brutality case with the same Miami Beach police.

Beatings like that suffered by Mr. Berry are more common than you think. Thanks again for exposing a hidden truth.

Julio Linares

Miami

Intimidate: Grotesque Racism

So where's the outrage? I'm shocked and appalled that Mr. Titus Berry, the nicest, most down-to-earth teacher I've ever had, was involved in such a blatant and grotesque display of racism by the Miami Beach Police Department. It would be ludicrous and insulting to say Mr. Berry is a violent or unstable African American. He's no "gangster."

The Miami Beach Police Department, however, is a repressive gang of insecure Anglos attempting to come to grips with the notion that minorities, like all people, deserve respect. "Rap nigger?" How about inhumane, totalitarian, resentful, unhappy, unjust, and primitive?

Where is the massive media coverage? Where are the investigations backed by a vigilant community? Local news should be having loads of interviews on this issue. Michael Jackson goes on trial and the world reports, but an innocent man is beaten and the world turns a cold shoulder. I'm sure had it been a black police officer beating a white man or woman, the media would've gorged on such an important and obscene transgression.

A friend of mine used to be a bouncer on South Beach, where he witnessed some disturbing acts of "law enforcement." He tells me there were times when cops would search clubgoers for drugs, confiscate them, then turn around and supply the drugs to bouncers or other clubgoers they were acquainted with, who would either sell them for the cops or simply use them. To top it off, not only would the police commit such self-serving crimes, but when young drunk patrons of the opposite sex caught their eye, bouncers would escort the "chosen ones" to the officers, who would do as they pleased with their prey in alleys or dark parking lots.

As for Mr. Berry, I pray he receives justice because nowadays it's all too fleeting. If there's any way reporter Francisco Alvarado can contact Mr. Berry, please tell him that fear is exactly what the police hope to create. But he should not fear. He should turn his anger into the fuel necessary to overcome such adversity and corruption, to rise above it with pride, aware that he is not the stereotypical fool the police make every minority out to be.

If you are a Miami Beach cop reading this and you feel you're honest, then do as your feelings preach and expose those who aren't. I know not all cops are criminals with badges, but just standing by and being a spectator doesn't warrant commendation.

Raul Diez

Miami Beach

Intimidate: Beaten and Harassed

My neighbor's experience was also a nightmare: All I can say about "To Serve and Protect and Intimidate" is this: Welcome to Miami Beach. As I read the article it was like déjà vu. I had a neighbor two years ago who went through the same nightmare. He was also beaten, except in his case they would drop the charges against him -- battery on a law-enforcement officer -- only if he signed a waiver promising he wouldn't sue.

In addition he was harassed at home on quite a few occasions, as I personally witnessed. It could be 1:30 a.m. and Miami Beach police would be pounding on his door and cursing. On the advice of his lawyer, he wouldn't open. But finally he wanted a normal life, wanted it to all go away, so he signed the waiver.

You'd be surprised how many things happen on Miami Beach. The police here have a way of turning things around and trumping up charges, making you the bad guy. But unless you have the financial power to fight them, you're screwed.

I feel for Mr. Berry and hope to hear a positive outcome.

Name Withheld by Request

Miami Beach

Intimidate: Idiotic

He was one of the best teachers I ever had: It pains me that my former teacher from Miami Beach High was beaten for no reason by Miami Beach police. I hope Mr. Berry sues the City of Miami Beach for such idiotic things that happened to him.

Mr. Berry was one of the best teachers I've ever met, especially when he tutored a group I was in for the Florida High School Competency Test. His explanations were simple and easy to understand, and when you didn't understand, he'd take the time to explain to each person.

I wish him good luck and success in suing the city. Please give him my regards and tell him he's an awesome professor of mathematics.

Alexis Guerrero

Homestead

Intimidate: Dreams Destroyed

Get rid of the bad cops and reward the good ones: I read New Times because the paper tells it like it really is. It keeps those with power under control. They know they can be exposed at any time! I read Francisco Alvarado's article "To Serve and Protect and Intimidate" and I tend to believe Mr. Berry's story because he was someone with a good job, good background, good education, and according to the testimony of co-workers, he did not seem to be the kind of character the Miami Beach police officers described. He had no reason to hide behind the race card, as they claim. His intelligence and education alone were sufficient. He had risen above the norm by himself.

The real problem is the power given to those in uniform. Unfortunately most police officers watch each other's back instead of correcting each other in moments like these. I truly believe they have caused Mr. Berry a lot of hardship and mental stress and should pay for it. It's not right to destroy someone's life or dreams just because they had a bad day.

I have met very nice police officers in my life, but there are probably just as many bad ones out there as nice ones. Hey, why have a public-service job if you can't do it right?

My son was also pulled over in Miami Beach and the officer was pushing him around on a dark street and provoking him, calling him names and so on as he was giving the officer his ID. He claims the officer was ready to hit him when another police officer arrived to check on him, realized what was going on, and stayed there until all was okay.

To this day my son thanks that officer for being there, and I thank God for him too! Let's weed out those bad cops and promote those who do an extra-good job!

Name Withheld by Request

Miami

When Celebrities Really Matter

Our issue this Sunday: global warming. Welcome toMeet the Press, Miss Hilton: I was reading Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column titled "The D Word" (May 26) and everything seemed okay till the very end, where I saw this ludicrous statement made by a local Democratic Party strategist: "People were discussing how to get Alec Baldwin to come down for a [Democratic Party] fundraiser. Now, Jimmy [Morales] can get Alec Baldwin on a plane with one phone call. But he didn't say a word. He's conserving his strength."

Call me bizarre for asking, but what does Alec Baldwin have to do with anything? He can be pro or con whatever he likes, but why should I give a damn? Is someone even remotely hinting that what Baldwin (or Paris Hilton or the Olsen twins -- they're all the same to me) thinks about political issues should in any way influence mypolitics? If so, that's an insult, and I don't respond well to being insulted.

In other words, if Jimmy Morales (or any politician) wants to impress me, do not stick some two-bit "celebrity" in my face. It is, at the very best, condescending.

Mario Encino

Fort Lauderdale

Handgun Chic

You've just got to tell me where you found that darling little Beretta: The "Bullet Time" story by Francisco Alvarado (May 5) was a little too cute for the serious subject: citizens carrying concealed firearms in Florida. Alvarado's line "the hand-held howitzer" is downright sophomoric, and his timing is off. The .357 Magnum was already popular among police and gun enthusiasts, and that's why it was showcased in Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry movies.

The Jonathan Postal cover photo for this exposé shows a model flitting across the cover like he's auditioning for a remake of West Side Story. He's wearing a right-handed shoulder holster but actually holding the gun in his left hand. Clint would never make a mistake like that in his films!

It's a shame that all of those people "packing heat" in Miami-Dade County aren't licensed and registered!

John E. Brown

Miami

Editor's note: As other readers have pointed out, Clint Eastwood's character "Dirty" Harry Callahan packed a .44 Magnum, not a .357.

Erratum

In "Excess Hollywood," a collection of film reviews with summer release dates (May 26), writer/director Stacy Peralta was misidentified. Peralta is a man, not a woman.

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